Meet this season's teams: "dating models" Brent and Caite, the latter of whom you recall making a rhetorical faceplant at the Miss Teen USA pageant a couple of years ago; cowboy brothers Jet and Cord; father/daughter team Steve and Allie; the brother team of Dan and Jordan (only one of whom is gay); married couple Dana and Adrian; long-distance couple Jordan and Jeff from Big Brother 11; Jody and Shannon, a triathlete and her triathlete granddaughter (!); undercover detectives Louie and Michael, who better win the million because it's going to be hard to go back undercover after this; "mom-preneurs" (their word) Monique and Shawne; married parents Joe and Heidi; and lesbian couple Carol and Brandy.
The race starts by making the racers take public transportation from a park in Los Angeles to LAX, which is less mean than eliminating a team at the starting line, but not by much. Team BB11, Monique and Shawne, and Dana and Adrian make it onto the first flight to Santiago, Chile via Dallas, while everyone else ends up going through Miami an hour later -- in theory, that is, until mechanical problems level the playing field. Then there's a bus ride to Valpariaso (which the cowboys have trouble catching, having loaded up in Brazilian currency) for a Road Block where they walk along high cables over the city. With all the cables and harnesses, it's not as dangerous as it sounds, and both Dan and Adrian survive falling off, at least in the strictest sense. Then they all have to do a little house-painting, which people succeed at in varying degrees. Dan and Jordan lose a paintbrush, earning themselves a fifteen-minute penalty; while Steve and Allie actually paint someone's living room. Jordan and Jeff make it to the Pit Stop first, so she's on her way to her second half-million from CBS. Miss Team USA scores a thirty-minute penalty for not reading the clue, so they rank seventh instead of second. And Adrian never makes it across the cable, even in two attempts, so that'll be it for him and…what was her name again?
Starting in Los Angeles again? Come on, Amazing Race. As Phil tells us, it's dawn, and "the 25 freeways cutting through town are already jammed with workday traffic." We can see that, thanks. Gosh, I hope they don't plan to make anyone race through that. From the roof of a building I think I once saw CTU raiding, Phil tells us that eleven teams are about to begin a race around the world for one million dollars. As happens with a fair degree of regularity these days.
Three giant coach-style buses, resplendent in Amazing Race-themed versions of those giant advertising condoms you see on vehicles sometimes, are en route to the startling line at the edge of downtown. The teams are inside, of course, and we're about to meet them.
First to get off a bus, in black, are Brent and Caite, "Dating models from South Carolina." Dating models? That's a departure. Plus now I get to look forward to a season of typing the name "Katie" that way. And I thought "Cheyne" was bad. Caite comes right out and tells us that yes, she was that Miss Teen South Carolina. And in case that doesn't ring a bell, the show plays a clip from her moment of glory, when she was asked why so many Americans can't find the U.S. on a world map. "Some...people out there in our nation don't have maps." And that's how Caite earns the first "fail" percussive sound effect of the season before the race has even begun. She says she started talking before there was even a sentence in her head, and the clip continues, "Like such as in South Africa and the Iraq, everywhere like, such as..." And then she gets another one! Brent gallantly comes to her defense, saying she doesn't deserve all the abuse that's been heaped on her. Well, no one does, but her debacle is the only reason a lot of people have ever heard of her. She promises that we'll change our minds about her being ignorant. Well, now I hope so. I'd hate for her to turn out ignorant and a liar.
Here come Jet and Cord, dressed for the rodeo in cowboy hats, button-down shirts, boots, and jeans with big belt buckles. Phil says they're brothers from Oklahoma. They say they've won five world rodeo titles apiece, but when we see clips of their screw-ups -- namely being hurled from the backs of large, bucking animals -- the accompanying music is all sweeping and majestic instead of gongy. Seriously, Jet and Cord have been given their own theme music, with swelling strings and French horns that evoke rugged heroism and the open prairie, and you're going to hear it more tonight than you heard "Sweet Georgia Brown" all last season. Anyway, Jet (the one in the black hat, and I'd like to thank him for his choice of millinery that makes his name so easy to remember) tells us that as unnerving as some of the stuff in the race might be, grabbing onto an 1800-pound bull is as well. Depends on what part you're grabbing.
Here come Steve and Allie, a father-daughter team from Southern California. Steve is apparently a professional baseball coach who led the Phillies to a World Series victory. I'll take his word for that. He says baseball takes you away from home seven months a year, so this is some major quality time with his daughter. Perhaps this will be a chance for him to give her a little personality.
Dan and Jordan, brothers from Rhode Island, hop off the bus in mixy-matchy yellow, blue, and black. This is going to be one of those teams that it takes me a while to tell apart, I can already tell. Dan says he and Jordan are a lot alike, but also different. "I am gay, surprise," Jordan interviews. "I am not," Dan hastens to add. Jordan says, "Gay all the way. Gay is the only way." Dan disagrees. Ooh, tension already!
Next are Dana and Adrian. They are high school sweethearts who have been married seventeen years, but they are no strangers to failure. Adrian says he put all their savings into a business that tanked. "Having gone through so much, we're gonna use that to our advantage winning this race." He's half right.
Okay, here they are. If you cover enough shows over a long enough period of time, you find yourself recapping some people on more than one series. Sometimes it's a respected thespian like Kathy Bates or James Cromwell, sometimes it's a prolific character actor, but in this case, it's Jordan and Jeff, who after last summer I thought were out of my life forever, or at least until the next time they came crawling back to Julie Chen for a chance to help host a Power of Veto challenge or something. Wearing baby-blue, they are described by Phil as "dating long-distance," because Phil is above all that reality TV nonsense. But of course it's not going to be left at that. "Jeff and I met in the Big Brother house," Jordan admits, and we get a clip of Jordan's "I can't tell time" scene with Jeff, which I've already recapped once in my life and I'm not about to do it again. I will say she earns a gong sound of her own. We also see her emerging victorious from the BB11 house, and as we see the two of them having a champagne picnic in an autumnal park somewhere, Jeff says they've been together almost every weekend since leaving the house. "So far, so good. We'll see what happens here, though." All I know is that either they or Dan|Jordan had better go soon. I'm already tired of typing "he-Jordan" and "she-Jordan," and I've only done it once.
Here are Jody and Shannon, in green. "Grandmother and granddaughter, both triathletes," Phil tells us. Jody, the grandmother, talks about the various major athletic events she's racked up. "I'm really looking forward to showing people what a former couch potato can do." Hey, what about a current couch potato? You think all this typing is easy?
Louie and Michael, in matching royal blue shirts and handlebar mustaches, are "undercover detectives from Rhode Island." First, isn't Rhode Island a little overrepresented here? And secondly, how do they propose to go undercover again now that their faces are going to be on national television? Hope that no criminals watch this show? We see them emptying a couple of clips at the gun range, and Michael (the taller one) says he and Louis have learned to adapt to any situation. "Today we could be dealing with a millionaire, tomorrow a crackhead." As though the two are mutually exclusive. We also see them using a battering ram on a crack house (it's shot all grainy and shaky, but the authenticity is undercut a bit by the fact that they're wearing shorts) as Michael says, "I hate to be cocky, I see us wining every leg." Is he quite clear on the meanings of the words "hate," "cocky," "winning," or "every?"